The Atkins diet, which is one of the weight loss diets like Ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular in recent years as people look for more sustainable ways if losing weight and live a healthier lifestyle. The main difference between Atkins and Keto diet is that the Atkins diet is more flexible about the amount of carbohydrates you can consume, while the Keto diet is very restrictive on the amount of carbs.
However, is Atkins healthy? Is it a sustainable and safe way to lose weight? Is it a good long-term diet? These are some of the questions that will be examined in this article. You’ll also get some easy-to-prepare meal ideas for the Atkins diet.
What is the Atkins Diet and Is it healthy?
The Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that was first developed by Dr. Robert Atkins in the 1970s. The diet focuses on reducing the intake of carbohydrates, while increasing the intake of protein and healthy fats. This helps to keep the body in a state of ketosis, where it is able to burn fat for energy instead of glucose. The diet has four different phases: induction, balancing phase, pre-maintenance phase, and lifetime maintenance phase.
Is Atkins healthy?
The question of whether or not the Atkins diet is healthy is a hotly debated topic. On one hand, the diet has been shown to be effective for weight loss and improved body composition as Atkins diet restricts carbs. Many people have seen significant results by following the diet’s high-carb, low-carb approach. On the other hand, there are concerns about the long-term health implications of a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol. More on these to follow.
Phases of the Atkins Diet
There are four phases to the Atkins Diet:
First up, is the Induction phase. This is the most restrictive phase, where carbohydrate intake is limited to a mere 20 grams per day. The goal of this phase is to jumpstart weight loss by putting your body into a state of ketosis. This means your body will start burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
This phase lasts for at least 2 weeks, and during this time you will be eating mostly meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and leafy green vegetables.
Balancing Phase is less restrictive. As you continue to lose weight, you will start to gradually increase your carbohydrate intake. You will add more types of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and small amounts of berries. The goal of this phase is to find the right balance of carbohydrate intake that allows you to continue losing weight while still feeling satisfied.
The Pre-maintenance phase is the last stop before you reach your goal weight. This phase increases your carbohydrates intake by 10g weekly(up to 100g), so you can find the right balance for you. You will start to introduce more fruits, whole grains and legumes into your diet during this phase.
Finally, the Maintenance phase is where you will reach your weight loss goals, and learn how to maintain a healthy weight for the long term. This phase is all about finding your “carbohydrate tolerance” and finding a sustainable way of eating that allows you to maintain your weight loss while still enjoying the foods you love. This phase is all about learning how to eat in a way that works for you, so you can maintain your weight loss for the rest of your life.
Atkins Diet Plans
Atkins diet is available in three different versions from the official Atkins site.
Want to make a major change and lose more than 40 pounds? Try Atkins 20, which starts you off with a low 20 grams of net carbs per day in the Induction phase. Need to shed a little less weight? Atkins 40 may be more your speed, starting you off with 40 grams of net carbs per day. And if you’re happy with your weight but want to maintain it while still following a low-carb lifestyle, check out Atkins 100 – a maintenance plan that begins with a moderate 100 grams of net carbs per day.
Health Benefits of the Atkins Diet
There are many benefits to the Atkins diet, and many people have seen great success with it.
You May Lose Weight on Atkins Diet
One of the most notable benefits of low-carb diets like the Atkins diet is weight loss. The diet focuses on reducing your intake of carbohydrates and increasing your consumption of healthy fats and proteins, which can lead to an increased feeling of fullness and a reduction in overall calorie intake. This, in turn, can make you shed excess weight and improve your body composition as compared to low fat diets.
A 12-month study found that premenopausal overweight and obese women following the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet experienced greater weight loss and comparable or more favorable metabolic effects compared to those on the Zone, Ornish, or LEARN diets
You May Have Improved Blood Sugar
Another benefit of the Atkins diet is an improvement in blood sugar control. By reducing your intake of carbohydrates, the diet can help to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which can be beneficial for those with diabetes or at risk for developing it.
An examination of 37 randomized controlled trials, comprising a total of 3301 participants, yielded evidence suggesting that low-carbohydrate diets may lead to notable improvements in HbA1c levels and weight reduction in the short-term.
Risks of the Atkins Diet
The Debate on Saturated Fats on Cardiovascular Health
One of the most controversial aspects of answering the question “Is Atkins healthy?” is its recommendation to consume a high amount of saturated fats, which have long been thought to contribute to heart disease.
Saturated fats are found in many animal-based foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as in some plant-based oils, such as coconut and palm oil. They have been shown to raise LDL cholesterol, which is the “bad” type of cholesterol that can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. A comprehensive examination of 15 randomized controlled trials involving nearly 59,000 individuals revealed that a reduction in dietary saturated fat intake resulted in a decrease of 21% in the occurrence of combined cardiovascular events.
Another 2017 study discovered that substituting saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) resulted in a reduction of coronary heart disease events, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.
However, a 2019 meta-analysis of cohort studies suggest that a higher consumption of dietary trans fatty acids was linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases, while no correlation was found between the intake of total fat, monounsaturated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids and the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Another 2018 research study revealed that there was no conclusive evidence of a benefit to overall or cardiovascular disease-related mortality from reducing dietary saturated fat. Instead of placing emphasis on a single nutrient, the study suggests that a greater impact on cardiovascular disease and overall health could be achieved by improving the overall quality of the diet and removing processed foods, particularly those high in simple carbohydrates.
Some other studies argue that the saturated fat in coconut oil, which is composed primarily of medium-chain fatty acids, may not have the same negative effects on heart health as the saturated fat found in meat and dairy, which is composed of long-chain fatty acids.
A 2009 research study argues that medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs), unlike long-chain fatty acids from animal sources, do not go through degradation and re-esterification processes and are instead immediately utilized by the body to generate energy. Thus, the saturated fats from coconuts can be beneficial for our health.
Atkins Diet May Be Deficient In Nutrients
Atkins diet is that it can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Since the diet is so low in carbohydrates, it can be difficult to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet. Additionally, since the diet is high in protein and fat, it can be difficult to get enough fiber, which can lead to constipation and other digestive issues.
Atkins Diet May Be Difficult To Sustain In Long-term
Another risk of the Atkins diet is that it can be difficult to sustain in the long term. Since the diet is so restrictive, it can be difficult to stick to it for an extended period of time. Additionally, the lack of carbohydrates can make the diet difficult to stick to, as carbohydrates are a major source of energy.
Foods to Eat on the Atkins Diet
Here is a list of foods that are typically recommended on the Atkins diet, broken down by phase:
Phase 1 (Induction):
- Meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish
- Low-carbohydrate vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado
- Dairy, such as cheese and heavy cream
- Berries (in small amounts)
Phase 2 (Balancing):
All of the foods listed above, as well as:
- More low-carbohydrate vegetables, such as bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions
- Some fruit, such as berries, tomatoes, and cucumbers
- Whole grains, such as quinoa and oats (in small amounts)
- Legumes, such as lentils and beans (in small amounts)
Phase 3 (Pre-maintenance):
All of the foods listed above, as well as:
- More fruit and whole grains
- Small amounts of starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and squash
Avoid These Foods on Atkins Diet
Here are some examples of foods that are typically avoided on the Atkins diet:
- Sugars and sweeteners, such as white sugar, brown sugar, and high fructose corn syrup
- Grains, such as wheat, barley, and rice
- Most fruits, especially those high in sugar, such as bananas and grapes
- Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn
- Most processed foods and snacks
- Alcohol: Many alcoholic beverages such as beers, sweet wines, and cocktails are high in carbs and can interfere with ketosis. It may be best to limit or avoid alcohol on Atkins diet.
Tips for Success on the Atkins Diet and FAQs
Ready to get started on the Atkins diet but not sure where to begin? Here are a few tips for success. First, be sure to do calorie counting such as keeping track of all carbohydrates you consume so you can properly adjust your intake as needed. Also, it’s important to drink plenty of water and get regular exercise while on the Atkins diet.
Here are some other FAQs about the Atkins diet:
- How do I start the Atkins diet?
To start the Atkins diet, you will need to familiarize yourself with the different phases of the diet and the foods that are allowed in each phase. You should also consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to ensure that the diet is safe for you to follow
- Is it hard to stick with the Atkins diet?
Yes and no—it can take some time adjusting to your new eating habits, but once you do it can be easy to stick with it.
- How long does it take to get into ketosis on the Atkins diet?
The length of time it takes to enter ketosis can vary from person to person, but it typically takes a few days to a week. You can test your ketone levels using a blood, urine, or breath test to determine whether you have entered ketosis.
- What are the possible side effects of the Atkins diet?
Some common side effects of the Atkins diet may include fatigue, constipation, bad breath, and the “Keto flu.” These symptoms usually subside within a few days to a week as your body adjusts to the diet. It’s important to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional if you experience any severe or persistent side effects.
Easy-to-prepare meal ideas for the Atkins diet
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach and bacon.
Lunch: Caesar salad with grilled chicken and a side of vegetables.
Dinner: Baked salmon with a side of asparagus and a salad.
Snack: Greek yogurt with berries and a sprinkle of nuts.
Dessert: Low-carb cheesecake with a crust made of ground almonds.
Side dish: Cauliflower rice stir-fry with vegetables and a protein of your choice.
Is Atkins healthy? Well, the Atkins diet can be a great way to lose weight and improve your overall health. It can help to reduce your risk of certain diseases and improve your cognitive performance. However, it is important to be aware of the health problems caused by the diet, as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies and be difficult to sustain in the long term. If you are considering starting the Atkins diet, it is important to talk to your doctor first to make sure it is right for you.